What’s your priority?

One of the perks of being a teacher is enjoying my summer break. It provides the time for me to reflect and figure out ways to get better. Also, enjoying life with my wife is a definite plus!

My wife and I HB

Current books I’m really enjoying are: The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I highly recommend these books for both professional and personal development. I often undervalue myself because as far as I remember, I was a little cocky SOB in my early to mid 20s. For some reason, as I get older, I have more doubts and am more fearful when performing new activities. These books help me understand why I do what I do and how to change my habits (more than 40% of actions aren’t actual decisions, but habits). Also, I’ve learned a cool trick to speed up my reading. Watch this video HERE.

I get distracted easily and my wife gets on me all the time when I’m playing my Clash of Clans too much. What helps me, for most of the days, is really to focus on my morning routines and rituals. It’s a constant work in progress that I’m always trying to tinker with. My typical day starts with waking up at either 4:50 or 5:00, drinking a pre-workout, 1-2 glasses of water, making my bed, getting dressed and hygiene, and then hitting the gym at 5:20. I do my morning workout and get home at 6:30 (if I’m not training anyone at 7 am). I take a shower, meditate, and I write in my journal; random thoughts and notes on what I read the previous day. As of this week, I’m going to use 5 questions to guide me in my journal, I stole the idea from Tim Ferriss’s recommendation of using The 5-minute Journal (I have plenty of journals so I just use the questions, but it does make for a great gift):

1. I am grateful for…

2. What would make today great?

3. Daily affirmation. I am…

4. 3 Amazing things that happened today.

5. How could I have made today better?

Drinking water in the morning and making your bed seems so insignificant, but they have an influence on your mental and physical state. The journal is to help me with my subconscious thoughts and to stir critical thinking so I stay focused on my 1-2 tasks I need to accomplish. Our mind is powerful and our subconscious plays a larger role in our daily lives than what we tend to think.

Pavel Tsatsouline had once mentioned that one of the strategies for success in life is to have balance with priorities. A question that I often get and what I see most people do in the gym often goes against the idea of having priorities. At around noon, a handful of my school’s custodial staff does a quick workout. It often consists of all upper body movements: bench, curls, triceps, shoulder flyes, etc. People tend to form habits because in terms of efficiency, the body wants us to use the least amount of energy. So to provide a recommendation, I would attempt to answer, “if I were stranded on an island, could only pick 1-2 tools, and only had 10-20 minutes to train, what would I do?”  I’ll bring with me a barbell and kettlebell. I would perform 1-2 big movement exercises, such as a snatch, clean, swings, deadlift, squats, press, and a pull. Now this is for those with goals of getting strong and building muscle. After achieving good mobility and stability through your joints, training for strength should always be the #1 priority. I’ll explain in another post.

It’s about priorities. Based on our limited time, we must attempt to answer: what is most important and will give me the most bang for my buck. To get a bit scientific so we all get a better understanding, let’s look at this chart.

Motor Unit Recruitment

So what’s a motor unit? Take a look at this picture.

So to simply understand these two images, your muscles are basically worthless without your brain telling it what to do. A motor unit is basically a neuron telling a part of the muscle what to do. In my previous post, I had mentioned that your body doesn’t use every single muscle fiber in every muscle of the body. It’s quite the opposite.

Your body is always striving to use the least amount of energy at all times! That’s one of the reasons why more than 40% of your behavior comes from habits. Just as thinking deeply expends a lot of energy so does focusing on strength to move large amounts of weights (especially when moving it fast). So when you perform exercises that are explosive (sprinting (and no, running for more than about 10-15s is not maximal sprinting), plyometrics, explosive medicine ball work, olympic lift variations, etc) it requires more of your individual muscle fibers (hundreds of thousands) within a muscle to work and the synchronization of multiple muscle groups working together.

Motor Unit Recruitment

When I train my athletes, clients, and myself, I stick to exercises that produces the greatest results to meet specific goals. So when you look at the chart and compare it to a meal, look at it as the red being the appetizer, the orange and yellow being the main course, and the blue is the desert. And the exercises that are listed only consists of a handful, there are plenty others. When you train for strength, you increase your body’s furnace, or your body’s ability to burn calories, and most of personal training clients want to lower their body fat. In addition, strength is the foundation for power and speed for my athletes.

I’m trying to live my life acknowledging my priorities and trying to ignore the distractions. I don’t get caught up with events or situations I can’t control. I need at least 80% of my energy to be channeled into my priorities so I can go to bed a better person than when I woke up.

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